Neural representations of language switching in early bilinguals: An fMRI study

Abstract

To investigate neural activity with respect to language switching, we measured brain activation with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while 5 early Korean-Chinese bilinguals performed a covert property generation task with language switching. Forty stimulus photographs of animals and tools were presented as stimuli, accompanied by captions written either in Korean or Chinese. When the stimuli were shown in Korean, participants were asked to do the covert association production task in Chinese (K>C), and vice versa (C>K). Results from the fixed effect analysis revealed that the K>C condition (Korean as orthographic stimuli and Chinese as semantic execution language) activated primarily left precentral gyrus and left inferior frontal gyrus while the C>K condition activated primarily the region straddling right precuneus and right middle/posterior cingulum. These contrasting activation patterns might support the hypothesis that the neural representations in language switching tasks hinge on the linguistic typology and the cognitive motor control.


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